New York City Teachers’ Contract Embeds Professional Development in School Day

By Samantha Stainburn — May 12, 2014 2 min read
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On May 2, the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s largest teachers’ union, announced that they had agreed on a new, nine-year contract that raises teacher pay 18 percent over the life of the agreement. The union’s 100,000 members will vote on whether to ratify the agreement at the end of May or beginning of June.

The union has not had a contract since its last one expired in 2009, so the agreement marks the end of a long and negative stalemate over teacher pay and benefits. But, de Blasio said at the press conference announcing the deal, the contract negotiations also gave the city an opportunity to introduce some new education reforms. Several of those reforms change the way city schools use time.

The union’s 2005 contract added two-and-a-half hours to the school week to be used for after-school tutoring or small-group sessions for struggling students. Under the new contract, those 150 minutes can no longer be used to tutor students but must be used for professional development and parent outreach instead. The agreement specifies that, every week, teachers must spend 80 minutes in school-based professional development, 35 minutes collaborating with colleagues, and 40 minutes communicating with parents via meetings, phone calls, emails, or social media. In addition, the number of parent-teacher conferences a year will double from two to four.

“I hold professional development dear to everything I believe in,” Schools Chancellor Carment Fariña said at the news conference. “We cannot hold teachers accountable to do things if we haven’t supported them, and sort of helped them get it done right. So, to the degree that we now have embedded in the contract, anywhere from 75 to 80 minutes per week where teachers will come to the table and help write their own curriculum, discuss the best things to do in their classroom—this is unbelievable. And to me this is also going to change the dynamics in a school from ‘what they’re doing to me’ to ‘what I can do for myself.’ ” The extra training time will be particularly helpful as teachers need to get up to speed on new Common Core requirements, she said.

Educators generally welcomed the idea of more professional development, even at the loss of after-school tutoring sessions for struggling students. Darlene Cameron, principal of P.S. 63 in the East Village, told Chalkbeat that not all students are willing to stay after school for tutoring. She said she hopes the new professional development will help teachers find better ways to support those students during the school day. “I think in the end this will have a bigger impact for children all around,” she said.

“One of the things that’s been missing is enough time to do collaborative curriculum development and professional development, and this new system will have a much stronger impact on student achievement than those smaller pieces of more intense intervention,” John Curry, principal of the Community Action School, told New York NPR affiliate WNYC.

The new contract also allows up to 200 schools to apply for a chance to experiment with doing things differently, including reconfiguring and lengthening the school day and year.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.